We were looking at maybe doing a trip to the Loire-Valley by car the day we fly out of Paris (flight leaves at 10pm -- do you think it would be enough time?
There are a number of day tours to the Loire Valley from Paris. Some rely on trains or you driving to Tours or Amboise (the TGV only takes a little over an hour each way) and then pick you up in a van for the tour. Others use a van for all travel, including to and from Paris. Generally the tours will begin early in the morning and last a total of about 12 hours. They usually visit 2 or 3 chateaux and/or wine villages, and include a wine tasting and lunch. Different tours allow you to choose various destinations. There are more expensive tours with private cars, but they are much more expensive. Google "Wine Valley Tours" and you will find them.
I agree with Gery. At least 3-4 days. We travelled around the Loire for 10 days and still did not see everything we wanted to see. Definitely go to Chambord
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The Loire Valley is a fabulous place to visit, but you'll get very frustrated if you only have a few hours to do so. You do not want to spend less than three days in this valley, really. Even if you choose only one symbolic castle, as Chambord, you will first need about 5 hours driving (both ways) + 3 hours for the visit itself (without the queues) + 1 for the parc + 1 hour lunch... not exactly the state of mind to appreciate this exceptional heritage.Why do not you consider visiting another famous Renaissance castle closer to Paris?
My first suggestion would be the Château de Fontainebleau. This gorgeous palace, brimming with history, has been the residence of Saint Louis, Philip IV the Fair, Francis 1st and Napoleon. Impressive architecture, exquisite decors, precious furnitures, lovely garden... (more info here). You only need one hour to reach it from Paris.
My second suggestion would be the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, which inspired Versailles. Even closer to Paris than Fontainebleau, this magic place will draw you back straight in the middle of the 17th century. Next to the luxurious halls, living rooms, drawing rooms, dinning rooms, bed rooms and library, you will enjoy discovering the basement with the huge kitchen, prison cell, wine cellars... The very impressive gardens only are worth a full visit... (more info here).
Enjoy your stay in France!
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Hi Ashley! I wouldn't recommend doing so at all on such a tight timing. It would be too hectic and you would probably only have about two hours to enjoy the Loire Valley. It's definite a three hour drive there and three hours back (with no traffic) which is not uncommon. Save it for another trip when you can go and truly appreciate it! One could spend days in the Loire and still have things to see. You would be lucky to even have time for one chateau as such a pace. Better to just spend another day enjoying Paris! Hope that helps.
If visiting the castels is the onely thing you plan on doing, I agree with the previus answers given, 3 / 4 days. But if you whant to enjoy the scenery and the way of life without running around, then take at least 2 days more. You'll have a trip you'll talk about for years to come. Enjoy!
I would say whatever you can see is better than nothing, but I would personally think 3-4 days would be even better still ;)